Table of contents:
- Sustainable flooring: old is depolymerized
- Back in circulation
- Sustainable flooring: cycle means new processes
- Fishing nets for carpets
Video: Sustainable Flooring - Upcycling
How is sustainable flooring created? Climate neutrality and material flows will be the next two major economic issues. Manufacturers of floor coverings are already pleasingly far on both points.
Author: Armin Scharf | Photos: Tarkett
On the whole, the recycling of materials and raw materials in the construction sector is not far off. One area makes a pleasing exception: the textile flooring. Here it is always better to transform old products into new ones - provided the floor fiber is made of polyamide 6, which is usually the case.
Sustainable flooring: old is depolymerized
The Italian manufacturer of the nylon fiber Aquafil is able to depolymerize the unmixed old material in a chemical process, i.e. to convert it back to the raw material caprolactam. If Caprolactam is polymerized again, polyamide 6 is produced again. Aquafil sells this fiber under the brand name Econyl - not only to manufacturers of floor coverings, but also to the clothing industry. This is where tights, jackets and sunglasses from the “Tommy Jeans” collection are produced, which Safilo produces for the Tommy Hilfiger brand. According to Aquafil, the recycled polyamide has the same properties as "new" nylon. No wonder that more and more flooring producers are using this material.
Back in circulation
Desso, a Tarkett brand, announced at the end of last year that contract carpet tiles could now be kept in a closed loop. There is a plant in Waalwijk in the Netherlands that Desso developed over several years as part of an EU project. The process called Refinity separates the back and fleece from the actual fiber layer with a purity of 95 percent. The back, once made from bitumen and now made from polyolefins, can also be recycled. Desso has been producing its tiles with the EcoBase back since 2010, which has been optimized for later separation from the fibers.
However, it is worth taking a look again - as is usually the case when it comes to recycling, renewable raw materials or climate neutrality. Because the assumption that the used carpet tiles go completely into the material cycle is not entirely confirmed. 76 percent of the tiles end up in the “closed loop” that Desso named: the yarn, the back, the glass fiber fleece and the cover fleece for the back. The rest, consisting of tufted carrier, latex primer and stabilizers, goes to the cement industry, where part of it is used to fire the energy-intensive manufacturing process. After all: According to Tarkett, the CO2 emissions compared to the conventional recycling of old tiles by combustion are reduced by up to 84 percent.
Sustainable flooring: cycle means new processes
Important for recycling: The materials must not contain any pollutants that would otherwise pass into the new products and could accumulate there in the long term. Tarkett has therefore been working on the transformation of Desso products in accordance with the cradle-to-cradle principle since 2008. Shortened, cradle-to-cradle (C2C) means that a product can be completely returned to the material cycle - without loss of quality or pollution of the environment. Tarkett not only offers carpet tiles with cradle-to-cradle certification, but also the PVC-free, elastic flooring from the “ID Revolution” collection.
In addition to Tarkett, Anker, Interface and Ege also have floorings based on Econyl and with C2C certificates in their portfolio. Interface, in turn, has been offering a completely CO2-neutral product portfolio since mid-2018 - around 25 years after the company first formulated this goal. Climate neutrality is therefore feasible, although the processes in the company as well as the supply chains have to be re-evaluated and defined. Incidentally, this is no different in the context of C2C certification: Here, too, it concerns the internal processes, material flows and suppliers - when switching to Desso, some suppliers could not or did not want to go along, new sources had to be found.
Fishing nets for carpets
The sources for econyl production are very different - it is only important that a material purity of at least 95 percent is achieved. This includes production residues from nylon production, the carpet fibers separated from the rest of the covering structure and old fishing nets. They are also made of polyamide 6, but like to go overboard to save disposal, but cause great collateral damage to the marine fauna. After depolymerization, the origin of the old material no longer matters - under certain circumstances you can actually walk on a floor that once fished out part of the world's oceans.
The Econyl fiber consists of recycled waste material that is first depolymerized and then polymerized to new polyamide 6 fibers. In this way, products made of polyamide 6 can be kept in a material cycle, for example floor coverings.